The USPTO has made a recent announcement that it has signed
a Workplan for Bilateral Cooperation on intellectual property issues with the
African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO).  This workplan, in essence, represents USPTO’s
very first commitment to helping developed countries and least developed
countries in promoting and improving the current existing intellectual property
systems in some of the most needed African countries including, for example,
Ghana, Botswana, Malawi, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

There has always been a critical need and demand for a legal
framework in these African countries to enable private and public enterprises
and companies to address the current food shortage and food crisis.  These needs and demands, however, are often
overlooked because of, inter alia, the lack of regulatory structure by which
private investment can be protected via IP rights (IPRs).  By signing the cooperative agreement with the
USPTO, ARIPO seems to acknowledge the importance of knowledge sharing and
technology transfer, and the life-saving effects of IPR protection on the
current food production. 

Needless to say, the cooperative agreement is historic
because the collaboration signifies Africa’s willingness to build capacity
programs and its understanding that private companies are less likely to invest
in R&D and/or partner with public entities to create a business model that
would benefit interest of the public in the absence of IPR protection. 
The agreement further shows USPTO’s continuous compliance in meeting the
technical cooperation obligation under Article 67 of the TRIPS agreement.